Wimbledon 2018: Novak Djokovic finally back to brilliant best, Kevin Anderson a genuine unsung hero
Novak Djokovic is finally back to his best, while Kevin Anderson will never get the credit he deserves, write Kevin Coulson and Dan Quarrell from Wimbledon.
DJOKOVIC FINALLY BACK TO BRILLIANT BEST
"I don't know if I'm going to play on the grass," Djokovic admitted in a hastily convened press conference after his quarter-final defeat at the French Open. Surely the surly Serbian, who is on the cusp of another final at SW19, is glad he did now.
The signs were not good after the three-time Wimbledon champion took six months out of the game before having surgery on his troublesome elbow after a shock defeat at the Australian Open in January.
And yet a guttural growl at his box when squandering a break point in the second set against Nadal attests to the fact that his focus, as well as full fitness, are now back. One more set and he'll be heavy favourite - despite the absurdity of having to play the day before the final due to stupid scheduling - to win a 13th Grand Slam.
ANDERSON WILL NEVER BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY ENOUGH
Yet another epic win and still Kevin Anderson is being talked about as a potential walkover for whoever is lucky enough to meet him in the final out of either Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic.
After his inspired marathon win over eight-time champion Roger Federer it was expected that the doughty South African would have the proverbial empty tank - so it was typical of the man that he only went and endured an even longer battle against fellow five-set specialist John Isner.
Now surely the 32-year-old WILL be exhausted, but surely by now no one should be underestimating the US Open, and now Wimbledon, finalist.
John Isner and Kevin AndersonGetty Images
WHY THE STUPID SCHEDULE?
'My last park and ride bus leaves at 10.40, so I need to leave here at 10.15,' said the lady watching Rafa Nadal against Novak Djokovic on Centre Court. She had paid £170 for a ticket and only saw two sets in their entirety following the marathon match between Isner and Anderson. She wasn't the only one - the taxi queues were 40 deep as people spilled out of the stadium before the umpire called time on the match at the mandatory cut-off point of 11.
Yes, they have the roof now, yes there are only two matches in the day, yes it's unlikely you'll have many six-hour epics. But why risk having a half a match with a 1pm start? It's not ideal for players, fans or TV viewers. Screw tradition, sort the schedule!
NOT PRETTY, NOT SPECIAL, BUT HISTORIC
The groans after yet another inevitable extended tie-break went around Centre Court, and even around the grounds, during the seemingly interminable match between Kevin Anderson and John Isner. Yet as the epic encounter developed deep into the final set - and ultimately into the second-longest match in Wimbledon history - the groans were replaced with raucous cheers.
It was never going to be a classic, but it was a display of sheer guts and determination from two hugely impressive characters. Okay, the barrage of aces and unforced errors was not pleasing on the eye, but the crowd ending up being utterly enchanted by the famous match they were treated to - including the heroic 92-year-old immune to tiredness, Sir David Attenborough.
The dogged pair slugged it out for a remarkable six hours and 35 minutes before the eighth seed came through 7-6 (8-6) 6-7 (5-7) 6-7 (9-11) 6-4 26-24. The final set alone lasted for two hours and 50 minutes. Serious drama, serious mental fortitude.
John Isner and Kevin AndersonGetty Images
DON'T LET SUN SET ON WIMBLEDON WARRIORS
The play on Centre Court may may have been abruptly aborted, but all those frustrated fans will dearly hope there will not be a similar finale to the careers of Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal. The pair, who have both suffered a succession of injuries, hadn't met at a Grand Slam since 2015, where Nadal triumphed at Roland Garros, or at Wimbledon since 2011, where Djokovic won in the final. My, how we'd missed this.
The spins, the slices, and the slides immediately put the six-hour slugfest that preceded it in perspective. And with Roger Federer now specially selecting his tournaments at the age of 36 and Andy Murray agonisingly unable to string any matches together, Nadal and Djokovic - 32 and 31 respectively - could have a few years yet to lay claim to the GOAT crown. Let's just hope they are not put out to grass any time soon.
Novak Djokovic and Rafael NadalGetty Images
INDOOR TENNIS UNDER LIGHTS SURREAL AND MAGICAL
Despite the somewhat farcical scheduling, there was something incredibly special, and all too fleeting about Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic's ferocious three sets on Friday evening. Fans knew from the outset that a swift conclusion was unlikely, yet that made the first instalment all the more rip roaring.
Both players threw everything at each other with remarkable intensity realising the opportunity which awaits the winner in a Roger Federer-less final. The closed roof and indoor setting on Centre Court with the artificial lights and almost surreal sounds off the racquet made for a unique atmosphere.
There really is no reason to not embrace late-night indoor battles at Grand Slams despite the disdain from a few purists.